Six delegates were up for grabs in the U.S. Virgin Islands on Thursday. None of them went to one of the four Republican candidates still running for president. In a surprise that sneaked up on every campaign, Republican strategists who were uncommitted to any candidate swept the contest, led by the (formerly) northern Michigan-based strategist John Yob and his wife.
“We have been coming to the Virgin Islands for a very long time and last year finally made it our home,” said Yob in a triumphant Friday morning statement. “Our children absolutely love their school and we are thankful to the vast majority of Virgin Islanders who have welcomed us to the community. It is important to encourage more families and job creators to travel to the Virgin Islands, experience paradise, and consider making it your home as well!”
It wasn’t as if Republican candidates ignored this vote. Several campaigns made pushes into the Virgin Islands and Guam, territories that send delegations to the national convention. Rafael Cruz, the pastor father of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), stumped in the Virgin Islands to win over voters.
It didn’t work. The lowest vote-getter of all the uncommitted delegates, Lindsey Eilon, picked up 117 votes; the most successful Rubio delegate candidate, Valerie L.Stiles, won only 72 votes. Robert Max Schanfarber, the highest vote-getter in the Cruz slate, earned just 47 votes.
In another year, the Cruz slate might have won. In 2012, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul split the delegates from the Virgin Islands, leaving none of them uncommitted. Only 384 votes were cast; this year, a total of 139 votes went to the Cruz slate.
But this year, turnout trebled, and 744 votes were cast for the uncommitted delegates who will end up heading to the national convention. Besides Yob and his wife, Erica, they include Republican strategist Eilon and Republican donors Warren Cole and George Logan, neither of whom had supported a candidate for 2016. That amounted to a setback for every other candidate, especially Cruz, as under the current rules of the RNC (which could be altered at the convention), a candidate needs delegate majorities in eight states or territories to get his name put into nomination.
Yob, who supported Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) for president and has not endorsed anyone since the senator ended his campaign, did not offer any hints about his next move.
“This gives the Virgin Islands tremendous relevance at the national convention and uniting behind our delegation and party leaders is critical,” he said in his statement. “The results showed tremendous increase in the number of Republicans participating in the caucuses and the USVI GOP should be very proud of their efforts to grow the party.”